Archive for the ‘Sovereignty’ Category

Remaining Faithful in Ministry

John F. MacArthur. Remaining Faithful in Ministry: 9 Essential Convictions for Every Pastor.  Wheaton, IL: Crossway, March 31, 2019.  80 pp.

5 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon

Are you a pastor that wants to read something to encourage you or are you someone that want to get a book for your pastor to encourage him to persevere in the work of faithful ministry?  If sot his book is for you.  I had this work for some time now but somehow didn’t get to it until now; and providentially this is timely for it fed my soul spiritually and encouraged me to engage in a heart check and also led me to pray and look to Christ and continue to trust in the Gospel.  This is by pastor and teacher John MacArthur who looks at the Apostle Paul with how he persevere in ministry.  Looking at 2 Corinthians 4 MacArthur observes nine principles that are “essential Convictions for Every Pastor” (what the subtitle is for this book).


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MacArthur Found God's Will

John MacArthur. Found: God’s Will.  Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, July 1st, 2012. 80 pp.

There seems to be no shortage of so called “Christian” books on God’s will and yet few of them are biblical.  John MacArthur’s book Found: God’s Will is a helpful work on this subject since it is biblically driven and definitely not man-centered.  In seven chapters MacArthur lays out logically what God’s Will is for our lives.


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Guidance and the voice of God Jensen Payne

Phillip D. Jensen and Tony Payne. Guidance and the Voice of God. Youngstown, OH: Matthias Media, September 16th, 2012. 183 pp.

This work is an expanded and revised edition of a book on God’s guidance and the will of God.  I received this book from the Shepherd’s Conference and didn’t realized I had it until I found it again in my book shelf as I was working on a series for my church on the sovereignty of God.  Talk about providence and what the book called “God’s behind the scene” guidance!  I found this book quite helpful and refreshing since the authors stressed the Bible as the means of knowing God’s will and they go against the grain of some of the books and speakers out there on seeking the plan of God that is man-centered, mystical or down right weird.


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Sovereignty of God Arthur Pink

Arthur W. Pink. The Sovereignty of God.  Pensacola, FL: Chapel Library, April 1st, 2013. 270 pp.

I was blessed reading through this book which served as a theological devotional while I was working on my church’s series through the Sovereignty of God.  Pink shares many Bible verses to make his case that God is sovereign and in control of all things over several chapters such as “The Sovereignty of God in Creation,” “The Sovereignty of God in Administration,” etc.  In the forward of the book Pink acknowledges that the most controversial part of the book for many would be the chapter on the sovereignty of God n reprobation but I think Pink’s position is biblical however unpopular it may be.  I was really amazed at how well Pink dealt with the subject of God’s sovereignty and the human will.  There were things Pink said that I thought were newer insights of contemporary Calvinists who are more philosophically attuned that Pink said in less philosophical in jargon.  I was impressed and I supposed I learned from this that there is nothing new under the sun.


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Note: I am overseas at the moment and will not have any internet.  This is a guest post byMike Iliff.  He’s a British brother in Christ who have been a friend of our blog for years.  Mike’s blog can be found HERE.


The Free Offer of The Gospel or ‘Man’s Responsibility and the Sovereignty of God’ is one of those topics that always seems to come back. Just when you think, as a topic, it’s been put to bed and sorted, up it pops again. I mentioned this to a dear friend of mine (Now in his 80’s, and sat under the ministry of Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel). He said ‘it’s been the same for 300 years, it keeps coming back’. On the plus side it keeps coming back because people, hopefully, are thinking. The objections are pretty much always the same. This makes me wonder if people are reading their Bibles. They go to churches that seem to have a good statement of faith, some of them even subscribe, in their constitutions at least, to one of the historic Reformed confessions. What is taught in these churches? Is any doctrine taught at all! Is there no desire to understand the Scriptures? I do wonder.

We were sitting around kind of talking about the topic in a roundabout sort of way and a Christian in their mid-twenties, brought up in a Christina home, says something along the lines of: ‘but God is outside of time and knows the beginning from the end and knew who would believe…’. I jumped in at this point and said ‘no, that isn’t it at all. That would make our Salvation conditional’. I recommended they read a good solid book on the topic. They agreed, but by all accounts that’s the end of it. Sadly, they will most likely carry on believing as before. The good thing, for me anyway, about this topic coming back is that I’m reading The Potters Freedom by James White, and enjoying it immensely. I recommended this book to the young man in question because it deals with all the issues. It’s a bit pricey, but I reckon it’s worth it. I have it on Kindle which makes it a bit easier on the wallet.

Being involved in open air preaching for several years – admittedly a while ago now – the question of just what we are to tell unbelievers was incredibly important if a) we wanted to honour God in our ministry, b) we wanted to tell sinners the truth, c) we did not want to deceive anyone, d) we didn’t want to give false hope and e) wanted their salvation to be grounded in what God has done and not a decision that made them feel good at the time. Our ministry and conversations must be God-centred, not man-centred. We must be like John the Baptist and point sinners away from us, and to ‘The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). A book I read a while ago was God Centred Evangelism (BoT) by R. B. Kuiper. Another helpful resource is a primer on The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen (Grace Publications No.1 ‘Life by His Death’). Speaking of Owen, J. I. Packers Introductory Essay on The Death of Death is also extremely helpful. On page 69 of Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (IVP) by J. I. Packer we read this:

‘The Gospel is not, ‘believe that Christ died for everybody’s sins, and therefore yours,’ any more than it is, ‘believe that Christ died only for certain people’s sins, and so perhaps not yours.’ The Gospel is, ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for sins, and now offers Himself as your Saviour.’ This is the message which we are to take to the world. We have no business to ask them to put faith in any view of the atonement; our job is to point them to the living Christ, and summon them to trust in Him.’

I read that a good while ago and at the time underlined it in red! As you go on as a believer that does get nuanced a bit (with a few footnotes thrown in for good measure) but that in essence is what we are to tell people. But what if, as happened to me, thankfully just the once, someone asks you ‘did Jesus die for me? What do we say then? I believe we have to be honest and not try and fudge the question. The Bible is clear. Christ died only for His people and we do not know who they are.  But here is someone asking me a direct question. That must have been at least 25 years ago but my answer today would be the same. ‘I don’t know. But I know this; if you repent of your sins and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ you WILL be saved. You must be saved God’s way and that is to trust in His Son.’ I suggest that is rare to be asked outright like that.

On another occasion a group of us were talking about the sovereignty of God and man’s responsibility and one brother put it like this: we have a 200% religion. If we said it was 100% God that would be Hyper-Calvinism, if we said it was 100% man that would fall into another error. We have to keep the balance, so it’s a 200% religion: it’s 100% God and 100% man. I’d never heard this before and people found it helpful. I could see ‘the penny drop’ but I wasn’t so sure so kept thinking (still am) about it over the next few weeks. [In fact, it’s the reason I bought The Potters Freedom.] In terms of Gospel presentation I see the point. But I’m still unhappy about the way it’s stated. To me, it gives man a foot in the door. And that worried me about the ‘penny dropping’. I should say; I’m not a Hyper-Calvinist. And you’ll see that as we go on – I hope you will anyway.

At the heart of the problem is this: if God is truly Sovereign then what part does man play. That’s the issue. The glory of man is the issue – we want some or all of it. And we can’t have it. We dare not have it. Jonah summarised it like this – Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:4). Negatively, this cuts both ways in terms of what we preach, or say to the unbeliever, and, the feeling that it cuts the legs from under us in terms of the evangelistic imperative. But the reality is, a full understanding of what God has done will give the evangelist not only a confidence in God to evangelise but will equip you with the most amazing and full Gospel message filled with certainty.

And so, dear reader. You have happened on this page. What can I say to you? You have read this far. You are intrigued, maybe annoyed, or just curious. You are not yet a Christian and you know it. Maybe no one else knows. You have many questions. But listen, the message of the Gospel to you is very simple, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. How can I say this with such confidence? It’s very simple. Because Salvation is of the Lord He has done all that is necessary for salvation. It is God that has sent His Son into the world. It is Jesus that has died on the cross as a sacrifice for sin. It is Jesus that has risen from the dead demonstrating the sacrifice is accepted by God the Father. It is Jesus that sends His Spirit into the world to convict men & women, boys & girls of their sin. It is God that awakens the sinner. It is God that grants faith and repentance. It is this Sovereign Gracious God that now calls upon you to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Will you believe on The Lord Jesus Christ?

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Note: I am overseas at the moment and will not have any internet.  This is a guest post by Joe Quatrone Jr.  His blog can be found HERE.

My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand (John 10:27-29).

Election is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult doctrines for us to comprehend. Simply put, election means everyone who comes to faith in Christ does so because God, in His grace and mercy, chose them to be saved. Election to salvation is an act of grace, rooted in the purpose of God. Election starts with God, not man. Election is rooted in grace, not works. It is unmerited and undeserved.

While there is no question this is what the Bible teaches, there are many questions as to what it really means. At the heart of the difficulty with this doctrine is the tension between God’s election and the free will of man. Libraries of books have been written on this subject and no one has ever been able to sufficiently settle the myriad of questions surrounding the tension. Those of the Reformed view would say it is the tension between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.

Now, a word is in order about what exactly I mean by the term “reformed.” I am speaking of what is commonly known as Calvinism. I have found it difficult to identify a universal definition of Calvinism because everyone I have met who claims to be a Calvinist wants to define exactly what they mean by that. So for the sake of our discussion, we will simply overview the basics.

Calvinism stems from the teachings of the great reformer, John Calvin, who lived between 1509 and 1564. Calvin emphasized the sovereignty of God, the sinfulness of man, and the necessity of grace for salvation, all which are foundational to my theology and many other Bible-believing Christians as well. Some years after he died, his followers systemized his theology and went beyond what Calvin himself taught. This system is classified with the now famous acronym T-U-L-I-P.

The “T” in Tulip stands forTotal Depravity.” Man can do nothing to save himself, not even exercise faith. Faith is a work. Since the fall, man is born with a natural bent toward sin. Every part of him has been infected with this disease of sin, so he cannot save himself, nor can he seek God without the prompting of the Holy Spirit through His grace. The Bible clearly teaches we cannot come to God on our own. It takes God drawing us to Himself: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (Jn. 6:44).

The “U” in Tulip stands for “Unconditional Election.” God alone initiates salvation; it is not based upon man’s exercise of faith. God, in His grace and mercy, unconditioned on anything else, by His own sovereign desire, chose some for salvation and left others to suffer the full consequences of their sins: “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight” (Eph. 1:4). We did not influence God’s decision to save us; He saves us according to His plan.

The tension here arises from the Scriptures which say no one is saved apart from God’s plan, yet anyone who repents and trusts Jesus Christ will be saved. Which is it? The Bible teaches both: God chooses us and we must choose God. It teaches God will hold us responsible for our decision to choose or reject Jesus, and yet it also says we cannot come to Him unless He enables us. It says God has His elect and it also says He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. This is one of the great tensions in Scripture.

I have found many Christians are preoccupied by the doctrine of election and how it affects salvation. Friends, we don’t know who is elect and who is not. All we know is we have a responsibility before God to go out into the world and share the gospel with everyone we can to become a member of the family of God. God does the electing. He chose us to do the evangelizing. The emphasis for us should be on “doing.”

The “L” in Tulip stands for “Limited Atonement.” This can be a confusing phrase, so some prefer the term “particular redemption.” Not everyone will be saved. The benefit of the work of Christ is limited only to those who trust Him. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, but the only ones to benefit from His atonement are those who receive, by their personal faith in Christ, the free gift of salvation offered to them: “I am not praying for the world, but for those You have given Me, for they are Yours” (Jn. 17:9).

The “I” in Tulip stands for “Irresistible Grace” (or some prefer the term “effectual calling”). Those God has chosen to be saved, He will make willing to come. They do not want to resist. Those who are predestined to be saved will ultimately be saved. The elect will not be forced to be saved against their will, but will come to Christ of their own choosing because God’s grace is irresistible. His call on their life will be effective: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose… and those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified” (Rom. 8:28-30).

The “P” in Tulip stands forPerseverance of the Saints.” Those whom God saves He saves eternally; they cannot lose their salvation: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). This is referred to as eternal security or once saved always saved, but this doctrine is often misunderstood. The perseverance of the saints is not a license to sin and live however we want; rather, if we are truly saved we will display actions which give evidence to the fact we have truly been saved.

All true believers will endure in faith to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but will preserve to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; but they will be kept by the power of God through faith to salvation.

Election is the gracious purpose of God, by which He calls, regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free will of man. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness. It is unchangeable; therefore, it excludes boasting and promotes humility. Salvation begins and ends with God. It is by His grace and mercy. Man can have nothing to do with it.

Here are three practical ways to put this truth in practice:

  1. Recognize salvation is from God alone and we must rely on His grace to be saved. He chooses us and we also choose Him.
  2. Resist the temptation of trying to know what we simply cannot know (Deut 29:29).
  3. Rest in the assurance that because God saves, we cannot un-save ourselves. We cannot be saved by grace and kept by works. It is simply not compatible with the plan of God.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

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Those of you who follow our facebook page and Twitter will know that we post John Frame quotes every morning Monday through Saturdays for your edification and Lord willing we plan to do this up until the end of 2015.

I thought today I post an extended quote that would be too long to post through Social Media.

One of the thing that I enjoy about reading John Frame is that it is not dry systematic theology but his exploration of the relationship of doctrines and the inter-connectivity of God’s truth makes me stand at awe of God when I see the coherence of Biblical truths.  I would say it portray the beauty of God!  It is not only wonderful as an apologetic (the coherence of the Christian worldview) but it moves me to worship God–we can call it “doxological apologetics” to borrow that phrase from another apologist!

Here John Frame makes the point with the example of the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty and human responsibility:

And so it often comes as an exciting discovery that doctrines that at first glance to be opposed are actually complementary, if not actually dependent one on another.  For Calvinists, for example, divine sovereignty and human freedom are examples of that sort of dependence and complementarity.  Although at first glance those doctrines appear to be opposed to one another, a closer look shows that without divine sovereignty there would be no meaning in human life and therefore no meaningful form of freedom.  And if our concern for freedom is essentially a concern to maintain human ethical responsibility, we should observe that divine sovereignty is the source of human responsibility.  Because the sovereign Lord is the cause of and authority over human responsibility we can say that God’s sovereignty–His absolute lordship–establishes human responsibility.  Thus Scripture often places the two doctrines side by side, with no embarassment or sense of impropriety whatsoever (cf. Acts 2:23; 4:27f; Phil. 2:12f.).  Human responsibility exists not ‘in spite of’ but ‘because of’ God’s sovereignty.  Not only are the two compatible; they require each other” (John Frame, Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 268).

In the past I have written on our blog on the importance on how .  I’m grateful to see John Frame point out something similar with human freedom and human responsibility necessitate the Sovereignty of God.

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Earlier this year Crossway published a 368 page book by Dr. Vern Poythress titled Chance and the Sovereignty of God: A God-Centered Approach to Probabiliy and Random Events.  I appreciate how Dr. Poythress has made many of his books  available to the public for free as a PDF.  This new book is now among them!

You can download the PDF by clicking HERE.

The description of the book on the publisher Crossway’s website is as follows:

What if all events—big and small, good and bad—are governed by more than just blind chance? What if they are governed by God?

In this theologically informed and philosophically nuanced introduction to the study of probability and chance, Vern Poythress argues that all events—including the seemingly random or accidental—fall under God’s watchful gaze as part of his eternal plan. Comprehensive in its scope, this book lays the theistic foundation for our scientific assumptions about the world while addressing personal questions about the meaning and significance of everyday events.

Here’s the table of content:

Table of Contents

Introduction: Experiences with Unpredictable Events
Part 1: The Sovereignty of God
1.  The Bible as a Source for Knowledge
2.  God’s Sovereignty
3.  Unpredictable Events
4.  Disasters and Suffering
5.  Human Choice
6.  Small Random Events
7.  Reflecting on Creation and Providence
8.  God’s Sovereignty and Modern Physics
9.  What Is Chance?
Part 2: God as the Foundation for Chance
10. Regularities and Unpredictabilities
11. Trinitarian Foundations for Chance
12. Responding to Chance
13. Chance in Evolutionary Naturalism
14. Chance and Idolatry
Part 3: Probability
15. What is Probability?
16. Predictions and Outcomes
17. Theistic Foundations for Probability
18. Views of Probability
19. Subjectivity and Probability
20. Entanglement of Probabilities
21. Probabilistic Independence
22. Independence and Human Nature
23. Is God Probable?
Part 4: Probability and Mathematics
24. Pictures of Probability
25. Mathematical Postulates for Probability
26. Theistic Foundations for Some Properties of Probability
27. Limitations in Human Thinking about Events and Probabilities
28. Conclusion
Appendix A: Why Gambling Systems Fail
Appendix B: The Real Problem with Gambling
Appendix C: A Puzzle in Probability
Appendix D: Interacting with Secular Philosophical Views of Probability
Appendix E: Permutations and Combinations
Appendix F: The Birthday Problem
Appendix G: Diseases and Other Causes
Appendix H: Proofs for Probability
Appendix I: Statistics
Appendix J: The Law of Large Numbers versus Gamblers


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 For Exposition of Jonah Part 6 click HERE


Selected Scriptures

I’m amazed at all the little golden nuggets in the book of Jonah this second time studying it.

Before moving onto Jonah 3, I thought I share with you some of the parallels I see between Jonah and the Apostle Peter.  There is a beautiful connection between one part of the Bible with another.  This should give us a source of awe of the Author of the Bible and Redemptive History.

Parallel of Jonah with Peter

  1. Both were not perfect in how they served God.
  2. Both wanted God to leave them alone in a body of water: Peter in Luke 5:8.
  3. Both face a crisis during a storm.
  4. Both receive second chance to submit to their calling after coming out of a body of water: Peter in John 21.
  5. Both were first to cross Jew/Gentile boundaries: Peter in Acts 10 (Youngblood, Location 2496).
  6. Jonah fled from Joppa to flee from going to the Gentiles; Peter was at Joppa in Acts 10:5-6 where the opportunity first began for God to draw Gentiles (Youngblood, Location 2496).

It’s interesting to see the last point.  The contrast with Jonah and Peter in the location of Joppa is that in the case of the New Testament church the time of the Gentiles was beginning and which we are presently in right now.

More than character studies, I think we should be at awe in the Sovereignty of God who orchestrate history and also wrote these parallels in Scripture.

 NEXT: Exposition of Jonah Part 8

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God's Work of Providence 2014

Been meaning to post this online earlier but haven’t had the chance until now.

Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary had their annual Spring Conference on the topic of Providence and the MP3 audios to the Conference are now available online:

 Calling All Christians! Calvin’s Doctrine of Vocation Dr. James E. McGoldrick 

Just a Lot of Noise: Providence and the Problem of Evil by Benjamin Shaw

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Here are links I’ve noticed around the web that touches on Presuppositional apologetics.

1.) Motion Presupposes God by Mike Robinson.

2.) Review of John Frame’s The Escondido Theology.

3.) In Defense of Blasphemy Codes by Doug Wilson.

4.) Miracles and My Father’s Death over at Triablogue.

5.) Consistent Atheism in Action at Major University by Gary DeMar.

6.) Would You Kill Baby Hitler?  and the Issue of Old Testament “Genocide” by Steve Hays

7.) Evangelism, Apologetics and the Sovereignty of God by Joseph Torres.

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The following is posted from Chalcedon Foundation.

There is something to be gained in gleaming the impact of Van Til’s idea as applied in the area of history. What makes it more interesting is that the writer works at Liberty University.

To a Thousand Generations: Rousas Rushdoony and the Study of History

In November 1969, distinguished Harvard professor George Williams wrote to his old friend Rousas Rushdoony. Though politically and socially liberal, Williams was pro-life and was working on a major historical piece on abortion.1 Noting that he had read Rushdoony’s The Myth of Over-Population, Williams asked for information about Christians before the nineteenth century who had spoken out about abortion. Rushdoony responded with a list of primary sources, which was particularly strong in patristic literature.

Williams and Rushdoony had a long history. They had known each other at Berkeley, while Rushdoony was a student and Williams a professor at a neighboring Unitarian seminary, and Rushdoony considered him an intellectual mentor. Williams went on to spend a half century at Harvard Divinity School, where he taught, served as dean, and was the Hollis Professor of Divinity. It is remarkable that a liberal Harvard professor would seek Rushdoony’s input on his scholarly work.

At the same time, neo-evangelical historians were bitterly hostile to Rushdoony. In the early 1980s while in seminary, I made a passing reference to Rushdoony’s The Foundations of Social Order in a church history paper. The professor erupted with nasty comments: “What does he know about this, anyway?” and “Would you trust a man like that?” Why does one man generate such diverse responses?

Biblical Philosophy of History

Rushdoony’s approach to theology and history was distinctively Christian and unapologetically Biblical and Reformed. His greatest contribution to historiography was in articulating a coherent, positive, and vigorously orthodox Biblical philosophy of history. He applied to historical studies Biblical truths about the sovereignty of God, the essentially religious nature of man, and the divinely ordained structure of the created order.

Rushdoony approached history with certain givens. His approach was theistic, starting with the Creator who made heaven and earth. He emphasized God’s sovereignty, arguing that God ruled all things by His almighty decrees and providence. He emphasized Scripture, confident that God spoke infallibly through His Word. Rushdoony’s approach was ultimately teleological, viewing God as guiding history toward its appointed ends.2

Rushdoony’s unique contribution was to take categories of Christian thought, show how they were unavoidable, and establish them as tools of historical analysis. He always sought to understand the ultimate religious foundation of a cultural system. Infallibility was an inescapable concept, for instance, Rushdoony argued, and every culture held some word as absolute—be it the inerrant Word of God or some fallible word of man. Every society had an absolute standard of law and justice rooted in religious convictions—either derived from Scripture or from some humanistic standard. Predestination was another inescapable concept. Either man would believe in the decrees of God, or would accept the predestining power of natural forces or of the totalitarian state, as man played god over creation.3

Rushdoony’s robust emphasis on predestination did not resonate well with the theologically effete. Some conservative evangelicals, who otherwise agreed with him, were spooked by his view of divine sovereignty. But Rushdoony properly insisted that there could be no area of the universe outside of God’s control.

Christian Paradigm for History

Rushdoony also stressed the significance of Christian theology—particularly Chalcedonian Christology—in understanding culture, governmental structures, and historical development. This was a consistent emphasis, seen in works like The One and the Many, By What Standard? and The Foundations of Social Order.

The doctrine of the Trinity had an incalculable impact on Western society. It resolved the old problem of the one and the many—of unity and diversity. Apart from a Trinitarian understanding, cultures would either move toward monolithic unity and totalitarianism or toward fragmentation and chaos. Only in a Christian society with Trinitarian foundations, Rushdoony argued, could one find a balance between these forces. “Sphere sovereignty,” furthermore, a specifically Christian notion of a sovereignly transcendent God establishing separate spheres of social authority, laid a foundation for proper social order.

The doctrine of Christ as the God-man was especially important for understanding culture. The Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) affirmed that Christ was fully God and fully man, possessing two natures without confusion or separation. World systems that lacked a Chalcedonian formulation would inevitably divinize the state or some exalted ruler. Only in creedal Christian societies, which understood Christ as the only mediator between God and man, could limited, Biblical governments flourish.

Jesus Christ was the central point of history. For Rushdoony, this was not an abstract item of theological speculation. His family had ancient Christian roots in Armenia, and his grandfather had been martyred by the Turks. Rushdoony’s parents came to America as refugees, and his father was pastor of Armenian Martyrs Presbyterian Church.4 The importance of Jesus Christ, and the potential cost of serving Him, was obvious in the Rushdoony family.

Rushdoony’s emphasis on Christ in history flows directly from Scripture. Psalm 2 says that rulers and peoples conspired against the Lord and His Anointed, determining to break their bonds. To these antinomian rebels, God declares that His Son has been enthroned, and He calls on man to submit. (Acts 4:26–28 says that this happened at Calvary.)

In Acts 17, Paul addresses the philosophers and rulers of Athens. He declares that God is sovereign, controlling the destinies of nations and individuals. God now calls sinful and idolatrous people to repent, Paul proclaims, reminding them that history will be concluded at the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ. While it was not a conventional view of history for the Greeks, Paul faithfully gave a Christ-centered framework for history.

Presuppositional History

Rushdoony was committed to the system of Biblical and presuppositional apologetics advanced by Cornelius Van Til, and he extended Van Til’s analysis into the sphere of history. He does this thoroughly in By What Standard? as well as in subsequent works. (Rushdoony was a friend of Van Til, and the two corresponded for years.)5

The Nature of the American System opens with an explanation of a presuppositional methodology for history. “Behind the writing of history is a philosophy of history, and behind that philosophy of history are certain pre-theoretical and essentially religious presuppositions. There is no such thing as brute factuality, but rather only interpreted factuality. The historian’s report is always the report of a perspective, a context, a framework.” Since the Incarnation is the central point of history, the Christian historian will not accept the pagan exaltation and “divinization of the church, state, school, or any other institution.” Rushdoony adds that Christian historiography and Christian revisionism are, for the Christian, “moral imperatives.”6

For Rushdoony, historical meaning and purpose had to come from outside of history. Teleology was and must always be meta-historical. Following Van Til, he argues that “meaning always escapes man when he seeks it in the realm of creation rather than God. Because all things are made by God, nothing is understandable in terms of itself but only in terms of God the Creator.”7

Historians are increasingly interested in this presuppositional approach, even if they don’t understand it. It is a way of linking Rushdoony, Schaeffer, and Van Til, and offering an explanation for the intellectual roots of the Christian Right.8 Unlike other historians, Rushdoony is absolutely forthright about his methodology and philosophical commitments.

Critique of Humanism

Rushdoony was at his best explaining the rise and influence of humanism. Man is an essentially religious creature, he explains: “[T]he alpha and omega of man’s being is his creation in the image of God and his inescapably religious nature.” Because of his religious character, man must worship, and “he will either worship God or he will make himself a god.”9 Elsewhere Rushdoony argues that “the faith of the modern age is humanism, a religious belief in the sufficiency of man as his own lord, his own source of law, his own savior.”10 The religion of humanism, furthermore, has become the de facto established religion in American schools and legal courts.11

Humanism will naturally and inevitably develop into statism. As Rushdoony explains it, “Man needs a source of certainty and an agency of control: if he denies this function to God, he will ascribe it to man and to a man-made order.” The growing emphasis on the United Nations reflects the culmination of humanism: “[W]here there is no theology of God, there will be a theology of the state, or a world super-state.”12

Rushdoony’s critique of humanism arises from Romans 1. There, Paul argues that sinful and rebellious man exchanged the knowledge of God for various forms of idolatry. In his folly, autonomous man declared himself wise. God responded by giving men over to sins and degrading passions until they “burned out.” Every culture that does not truly acknowledge God, Rushdoony argues, will inevitably establish a humanistic system, which will proclaim human autonomy, but which will end in degradation and either anarchy or statism.

Years ago, Christ College produced some Rushdoony-inspired promotional T-shirts. The shirts had a picture of the Ten Commandments and the cross of Christ. I liked the inscription beneath the picture. It read: “God’s law or Chaos.”

Conservative History

This Independent Republic, a study of American themes of freedom, is an excellent example of Rushdoony’s conservative approach to history. The book arose from messages he delivered at a 1962 summer conference of the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists; it was there that Gary North became a Rushdoony convert.13

Rushdoony’s thesis is clear: the United States had Christian, Augustinian, feudal, and Protestant roots. The American Revolution was conservative in nature, “to preserve American liberties from the usurpation and invasion of Parliament.”14 The revival of American government, Rushdoony believed, would depend upon “the Christian renewal of the citizenry,” the revitalization of “local units of government,” and the strengthening of Christian schools. The Nature of the American System was a complementary work, calling attention to the neglected themes of America’s Christian past—in opposition to “present Gnostic and messianic movements.”15

Rushdoony identified himself as a conservative and was interested in conservative political causes of the 1960s. He enthusiastically supported Barry Goldwater. He was a tireless critic of communism and the United Nations. A Californian, Rushdoony observed firsthand the cultural and moral declension associated with the modernism of the sixties.

Yet Rushdoony was different from other conservative activists. He insisted that true conservatism was Christian. Rushdoony consistently looked beyond symptomatic problems to underlying issues, and the ultimate problem was man’s rebellion against God and His law.

Real History

Rushdoony also wanted his works to be practical and useful. He aimed at laymen, not the ivory tower. Professional academics usually write for one another and treat “popular” work with scorn. A scholar once commended Rushdoony for his Institutes of Biblical Law, but said “it was a sad and tragic work because it was aimed at laymen and should have been written to scholars to set up a dialogue.” Rushdoony’s response: “There was no sense of the real world. Scholarly interchange is the goal of scholarship. But that is barren and impotent.” Rushdoony clearly wanted his work to be accessible and useful.

The Institutes of Biblical Law is an excellent example of Rushdoony’s methodology and practical approach. Institutes is a mix of Biblical exegesis, theological reflection, historical illustrations, and cultural commentary. The work explains the Ten Commandments and is an invaluable source for pastors doing Bible studies on the practical implications of the law of God.

The Messianic Character of American Education was a highly influential treatment of American Education. Mrs. Rushdoony wondered why he dedicated so much time to the study—since public education seemed so firmly entrenched. Rushdoony eventually traveled across the country, speaking before advocacy groups, at hearings and in trials, defending the right of Christian education. This real-world contribution of Chalcedon to Christian freedom reflects Rushdoony’s fundamental commitments.16

Rushdoony was particularly pleased with The Myth of Over-Population. It was well received in the Wall Street Journal, and it was instrumental in the conversion of Otto Scott. Rushdoony covers history, economics, theology, and the efforts at population control. Released at the same time as Paul Ehrlich’s sensational and apocalyptic The Population Bomb, the two works are an amazing study of contrasts.

Rushdoony and the Historians

The corpus of Rushdoony’s work is eclectic, touching on history, philosophy, psychology, education, law, government, theology, and the Bible. His historical works cover centuries, involving world history, church history, European and American history. Most historians prefer smaller, more easily defined topics and feel uncomfortable with this range and breadth.17 Rushdoony’s work is theoretical, interpretive, and theologically driven. His self-consciously Christian and presuppositional approach to history has an apologetic purpose—to defend the Christian faith. Most historians would be unable to understand the contours of Rushdoony’s philosophy—even if they agreed with his purpose.

Historians give little attention to Rushdoony because he was not a conventional or professional historian. They emphasize archival work and primary sources, whereas Rushdoony typically relied upon secondary sources. They are also clannish and view outsiders with suspicion.18

I like to think of Rushdoony as a kaleidoscopic historical writer. Those who fiddled with kaleidoscopes as kids will remember the fascination of turning the cylinder and seeing objects and forms tumble into different arrangements and configurations. Rushdoony makes people think outside the box. More appropriately, he forces people to look at the humanistic and statist box from the outside. While not strictly an historian, he offers a coherent Biblical paradigm from which to evaluate history.

Rushdoony has admirers among historians. I was at an academic conference at the University of Virginia in February 2007. One of the discussion topics dealt with the Puritans. “You know,” one professor told me afterward, “the points they made were exactly what Rushdoony argued in The Flight from Humanity.” Rushdoony, he implied, was about thirty years ahead of the profession.19

In The Theme Is Freedom, an excellent work by M. Stanton Evans, there are frequent echoes of Rushdoony themes. Evans notes his dependence on Rushdoony, “who has written an entire library of books about the biblical basis of our freedom” and is in the great Reformed tradition of Cornelius Van Til.

Most recent historical analysis of Rushdoony focuses on his influence on the Christian Right. These authors are not so interested in what Rushdoony taught—as how he influenced evangelical activists. They see four areas of Rushdoony’s influence: his advocacy for Biblical creationism; his influence on American Christian education; his defining and promotion of “theonomy”;20 and his influence on Christian political activism. Rushdoony’s greatest influence was on Francis Schaeffer, the leading apologist of conservative American evangelicalism. Gary North and David Chilton have shown that Schaeffer’s historical and cultural analysis was drawn directly from Rushdoony.21

Rushdoony and Neo-Evangelicalism

Rushdoony once estimated that “nine-tenths of the hostility to me has come from the church.” Believing that conflict over the gospel was unavoidable, he explained: “Whenever you have had a clear-cut statement of the Reformed faith, you have had hostility. When it has been clearly and sharply presented, the faith has always engendered hostilities. When so much of the church is made up of compromisers, who try to keep a foot in both camps, then anyone who unequivocally presents the faith is going to be hated.”22

As early as 1965, Rushdoony warned about the trajectory of Christianity Today and the “new evangelicalism.” As he told Christian historian C. Gregg Singer, Christianity Today “plays down the antithesis, holds that doctrines which divide ‘Christians,’ such as infallibility, the atonement, etc., should not be sharply stated but only generally so, and that ‘love’ must be emphasized ad nauseam. But most of all, there is a determined hostility to Calvinistic thinking, because it represents an uncompromising stand on the Biblical faith.”23 Singer concurred, adding that “[i]t is a peculiar situation to be in—to see people who once felt that you were liberal because you did not hold to dispensationalism drift right by you into the arms of socialism and political radicalism.”24

Even the Westminster Theological Journal showed signs of “humanistic socialism.”25 The treatment of Singer’s A Theological Interpretation of American History illustrated the seminary’s move toward political and theological liberalism. Writing to Westminster professor Edward Young, Rushdoony argued that for Singer’s work “to be turned over carelessly to a bumptious young student who resents its political conservatism and wields a leftist political axe on the book is hardly fair treatment to a tried and true champion of our cause.”26 The Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Westminster, Rushdoony warned, were becoming “vehicles of the social gospel.” They were leaving the legacy of Van Til and replacing it with rationalism and the autonomy and sovereignty of man. This was a critical moment, Rushdoony continued: “Either the autonomy of man is permitted in our thinking, or it is denied in every realm thereof. Can the church (or seminary) long exist which tolerates liberalism in any form?”27

Rushdoony and the Future

In the summer of 1852, James Henley Thornwell toured Ivy League colleges. A leading Presbyterian theologian, Thornwell was also president of South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina), and he wanted to observe the condition of education in the North. He was impressed with the welcome he received at Harvard and was particularly intrigued by a faculty dinner. “They concluded the dinner by singing the seventy-eighth Psalm. This has been an old custom, handed down from the Puritan fathers. It was really an imposing ceremony; and I should have enjoyed it very much, if I had not remembered that they were all Unitarians, witnessing in this service, to their own condemnation.” As he explains to his wife, there was only one drawback to what he had seen at Harvard, “and that is the religion. It makes me sad to see such men, so accomplished, so elegant, at once such finished, gentle men and such admirable scholars, sunk into such a vile faith.”28

Psalm 78 provides insight and direction for the historian. The psalmist declares that God has established a law and a testimony. The Word of God and the history of His mighty deeds were to be declared to the children and to the generations to come. God did not want Israel to forget Him—and to become faithless and rebellious like previous generations.

As an historian, Rushdoony was true to the calling of Psalm 78. He argued for and employed a specifically Biblical and Christ-centered paradigm of historical analysis. Like Thornwell, he cared little about impressing liberals, humanists, statists, or Unitarians. Most historians, unfortunately, even Christian ones, have followed the path of Harvard, exalting human reason, celebrating their own progressiveness, and seeking the world’s acclaim. Professing themselves wise, they have become fools. Rushdoony’s consistent goal was to exalt Christ the King, to show the hand of God in history, and to teach coming generations the truths of Scripture.

The last time I saw Rushdoony, was for a Sunday dinner at my house. Other families were invited, and a number of children were present. Offering a blessing for the meal, Rushdoony also prayed for the little ones: “May these children, and their children’s children, be Christians to the end of time.” The prayer sums up his thinking—and the core of his burden for history—that the Word and testimony of God would faithfully endure for a thousand generations.

1 George Williams, “Religious and Presuppositions in the American Debate on Abortion” Theological Studies 31:1 (1970), 10–75. Williams cites Rushdoony’s work. Rushdoony tells Williams about his forthcoming study of Biblical law—and hints at his main thesis, that “modern Protestantism, both evangelical and liberal, has become radically antinomian.”2 Rushdoony, By What Standard? 97.3 Rushdoony, The Biblical Philosophy of History, 6, 45ff.4 Mark Rushdoony, “The Vision of R. J. Rushdoony” October 17, 2005, http://www.chalcedon.edu/articles/article.php?ArticleID=185. For biographical data, see my “Interview with R. J. Rushdoony” Contra Mundum, 13, Fall 1994, 33–38, http://www.contra-mundum.org/cm/cm13.pdf.

5 I particularly like Van Til’s letter to Rushdoony (May 7, 1962) right after Van Til stumbled into the neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth at Princeton. “[Barth] became quite excited and repeated the question, Are you Van Til, three times. Then he added that I had said terrible things about him, namely, that he was the greatest heretic of all time, but Barth also added, ‘I forgive you, I forgive you.’ Just before leaving the meeting ‘Bill Jones,’ an old friend of mine from Princeton days, told me that he had picked up Karl Barth on a street of Princeton and gave him a ride in his car. After Mr. Jones told Barth that he knew me well Barth got excited and said something to this effect. Do you know Van Til? He is a bad man. He called me the greatest heretic of all ages. You tell him that he is a bad boy and won’t go to heaven. I am quoting this from memory, but I am sure that several of the phrases are accurate. I expect to go back again Friday night. That will be the night for discussion. I do not think the ‘bad boy’ is going to ask any questions but it ought to be interesting to see how the discussion is carried on and what Barth will say.” (They say that Karl Barth was a universalist, but that cannot be true. Barth apparently believed that “bad boy” Van Til was not going to heaven, even if everybody else was!)

6 R. J. Rushdoony, The Nature of the American System, v–vii.

7 Rushdoony, The Biblical Philosophy of History, 126f.

8 Fritz Detwiler, Standing on the Premises of God: The Christian Right’s Fight to Redefine America’s Public Schools (New York University Press, 1998). Detwiler keeps saying that Rushdoony studied under Van Til at Westminster (15, 111, 131, 239, 242). Also see “Through a Glass, Darkly: How the Christian Right Is Reimagining U.S. History” Harper’s Magazine, http://www.harpers.org/ThroughAGlassDarkly-12838838.html.

9 Rushdoony, The Politics of Guilt and Pity, 198f.

10 Rushdoony, The One and the Many, 372.

11 Rushdoony, The Nature of the American System, 112.

12 Rushdoony, The Politics of Guilt and Pity, 185–188.

13 Gary North, Baptized Patriarchialism, 23. Schaeffer was also heavily influenced by the book.

14 Rushdoony, This Independent Republic, viii.

15 Rushdoony, The Nature of the American System, vii.

16 “Interview with R. J. Rushdoony” Contra Mundum 13, Fall 1994, 33–38, http://www.contra-mundum.org/cm/cm13.pdf.

17 There is an old joke about Ph.D.’s: “They study more and more about less and less until, finally, they know everything about nothing at all.”

18 This would not surprise or concern Rushdoony. Universities and mainline academics have a monopoly on what Rushdoony called “pseudo-knowledge.” They guard a liberal orthodoxy and are not interested in alternative viewpoints.

19 Rushdoony, The Flight from Humanity: A Study of the Effect of Neoplatonism on Christianity.

20 For a theological history of “theonomy,” see Marc Clauson, A History of the Idea of God’s Law (Theonomy): Its Origins, Development and Place in Political and Legal Thought (Edwin Mellen Press, 2006).

21 Gary North and David Chilton, “Apologetics and Strategy” Christianity and Civilization: The Tactics of Christian Resistance (1983), 100–140.

22 “Interview with R. J. Rushdoony,” Contra Mundum 13, Fall 1994, 33–38, http://www.contra-mundum.org/cm/cm13.pdf.

23 Rushdoony to Singer (September 28, 1965).

24 Singer to Rushdoony (October 5, 1965).

25 Rushdoony to Singer (September 28, 1965).

26 Rushdoony to Young (May 7, 1965).

27 Rushdoony to Young (June 2, 1965).

28 Quoted in B. B. Palmer, The Life and Letters of James Henley Thornwell (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974 [1875]), 361.

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